Google is being sued after bad map directions led a man to his death

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A series of errors with Google Maps directions at the core ultimately led to a man dying after driving over a collapsed bridge -- and his family is suing.

The collapsed Snow Creek bridge has now been barricaded. (Source; Hickory Daily Record)
The collapsed Snow Creek bridge has now been barricaded. (Source; Hickory Daily Record)



When Apple first replaced Google Maps with its own Apple Maps, the service was ridiculed for its errors, and it has taken years to bring it up to par. But a new lawsuit has highlighted the dangers of all mapping technology, as Google is accused of causing a death by its failure to accurately update its maps.

According to the local paper, the Hickory Daily Record, Philip Paxson, 47, died in 2022 after following Google Maps' directions to drive over a Snow Creek bridge. Reportedly, the bridge collapsed almost ten years ago.

Alicia Paxson, the deceased's widow, has now filed a suit in Wake County. The suit names Google, its parent company Alphabet, and local business people who own the bridge and nearby land, as all negligent and responsible for the death.

A spokesperson for Alicia Paxson announced the lawsuit to members of the press at the site, where the bridge has now been barricaded off.

"We've heard indications that cost may have been an issue in terms of fixing the bridge," said the spokesperson, "but as you can see, there could have been simple fixes."

Reportedly, Google was notified of the collapsed bridge. The accusation is that the company was therefore negligent in failing to update its directions.

Paxson says she wants to see that no one else is harmed because of the bridge.

The bridge outage is correctly shown as such on Apple Maps, and still is mapped incorrectly on Google Maps.

Left: Google Maps still shows a road over Snow Creek. Right: Apple Maps correctly shows the absence of a bridge
Left: Google Maps still shows a road over Snow Creek. Right: Apple Maps correctly shows the absence of a bridge


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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    Google fix your map in T___A it will route you in different directions even w/o traffic. Apple map is way better in this situation so I have to turned on both maps app. Sad
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,371member
    Re: “… announced the lawsuit to members of the press at the site, where the bridge has now been barricaded off.”

    It seems to me that local highway maintenance authorities are fully responsible for ensuring that proper signage, warnings, and barricades are put in place that correspond to changing local conditions. When did Google Maps become responsible for assuring that the local conditions and road and infrastructure maintenance and safety concerns are maintained in an up-to-date state at all times?

    Google Maps is not an authoritative source of anything that it does not have direct control and responsibility for keeping up to date. It’s a convenience service, not a highway maintenance or public safety service. If a tree falls across a road Google is not responsible for updating its mapping service so drivers don’t run into the tree. It doesn’t matter if the bridge collapsed yesterday or ten years ago. Google has no responsibility at all. If their mapping service is out-of-date or deficient, like a paper map would be, it’s simply a sucky private service with no official responsibility whatsoever. If it sucks, stop using it.

    The local officials responsible for road maintenance should have put up proper signage , warnings, and barricades as soon as the bridge was in an unusable state. Maybe they could get members of the press help them put out public notices to inform the local citizens that the bridge was no longer usable. Is that not the reason why the press was invited to the presser, to help get the word out so no one else makes the same mistake the victim made? 

    Yes, this is a tragic event. But why turn it into a deep pockets money grab? 
    gourmet_poemsrayboGraeme000muthuk_vanalingamtechconcwaveparticleSleepySheepFileMakerFellerjony0
  • Reply 3 of 23
    dewme said: When did Google Maps become responsible for assuring that the local conditions and road and infrastructure maintenance and safety concerns are maintained in an up-to-date state at all times? 
    Per the article, the bridge had collapsed ten years prior to the accident. 
    ronntdknoxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    dewme said:
    Re: “… announced the lawsuit to members of the press at the site, where the bridge has now been barricaded off.”

    Folks, we found the Google employee.   
    ronnwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,371member
    dewme said: When did Google Maps become responsible for assuring that the local conditions and road and infrastructure maintenance and safety concerns are maintained in an up-to-date state at all times? 
    Per the article, the bridge had collapsed ten years prior to the accident. 
    So why were no barriers, signs, warnings, or other physical impediments put in place by local  responsible for road maintenance highway safety? Google does provide a way to report map inaccuracies, but it’s very possible that some of these fall through the cracks or fail to be updated. It would be reasonable to expect that every mapping database has a percentage of inaccuracies, both those that are flat-out wrong and those that arise due to local road work and changes. I recently drove over a bridge that has added an additional set of lanes and Apple Maps showed me driving through air.

    This isn’t the first time Google has been sued under similar circumstances. In all of the cases that I’ve been able to discover the driver has always been held 100% liable, even when mapping software contained errors or inaccuracies. But this is really a product liability case so you never know when a judge or jury will reconsider who bears responsibility, which is obviously why there are lawyers and media megaphones being used in this case. Precedent doesn’t always prevail.
    muthuk_vanalingamFileMakerFellerjony0
  • Reply 6 of 23
    dewme said:
    Re: “… announced the lawsuit to members of the press at the site, where the bridge has now been barricaded off.”

    It seems to me that local highway maintenance authorities are fully responsible for ensuring that proper signage, warnings, and barricades are put in place that correspond to changing local conditions. When did Google Maps become responsible for assuring that the local conditions and road and infrastructure maintenance and safety concerns are maintained in an up-to-date state at all times?

    Google Maps is not an authoritative source of anything that it does not have direct control and responsibility for keeping up to date. It’s a convenience service, not a highway maintenance or public safety service. If a tree falls across a road Google is not responsible for updating its mapping service so drivers don’t run into the tree. It doesn’t matter if the bridge collapsed yesterday or ten years ago. Google has no responsibility at all. If their mapping service is out-of-date or deficient, like a paper map would be, it’s simply a sucky private service with no official responsibility whatsoever. If it sucks, stop using it.

    The local officials responsible for road maintenance should have put up proper signage , warnings, and barricades as soon as the bridge was in an unusable state. Maybe they could get members of the press help them put out public notices to inform the local citizens that the bridge was no longer usable. Is that not the reason why the press was invited to the presser, to help get the word out so no one else makes the same mistake the victim made? 

    Yes, this is a tragic event. But why turn it into a deep pockets money grab? 
    Exactly!   Look, it's always fun to mock Google for something they claim to be better at, but I don't see how Google is liable here.  I don't think any mapping service can be expected to be up to date on every possible road and condition.  If a bridge is out, there should be proper signage and road blockage to avoid any confusion. If anyone is liable, it would be the local municipality for not providing sufficient warning.
    muthuk_vanalingamiOS_Guy80SleepySheepgrandact73FileMakerFellerjony0
  • Reply 7 of 23
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,913member
    Sue local authority who is in charge of roads, bridges and tunnel maintenance. and often people ignore re-routing because they know better than map software real-time guidance or had past bad experience when re-route was not optimal map advice.
    edited September 2023 williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 23

    I agree that local officials are to be held liable, specially since the bridge in question had collapsed years prior. The lack of sufficient warning signs falls on squarely on the shoulders of local highway management. My impression is that this lawsuit took a shotgun approach hitting anyone or anything remotely related.

    I use Google maps, Apple maps, Waze, and a Garmin while my wife prefers paper maps when we’re traveling. The benefit of using these apps is that they tend to get updated far more frequently than paper maps. Some do offer helpful realtime updates to road conditions.

    Recently while driving in my community, I turned onto a street that according to my Garmin (which is always updated to the latest version) showed the street I turned onto wasn’t a thru street. In fact my wife, as I turned onto the street remarked, “This isn’t a thru street”. Apple Maps (via my iPhone) showed it was a thru street. It was. 

    The street in question had recently (within 6 months) been extended which I knew because I'm a local. I’ll bet the city map one can get from the local Chamber office doesn’t reflect the change yet - but probably will in future printings. Perhaps Garmin will be updated at some point as well.

    My point is, and what dewme and others are saying, is that these apps are not always accurate. They have no direct control and responsibility for keeping up to date. I always take directions given from these apps and devices with a grain of salt. But I also rely heavily upon state and local officials to keep drivers apprised of changing road conditions - something that clearly didn’t happen in this instance.

    williamlondonFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    Since when was it expected that we'd blindly follow software? Just use Maps to look at the map / satellite view or the photo in the article. The pavement is torn away, it couldn't be clearer that this is not somewhere you want to go. It's also on a very narrow road (use Google Street view; Apple hasn't covered it), right after a turn, and not very far down to the creek. How fast was this person going? If you turned the corner normally, you'd have all the time in the world to stop. Perhaps it was at night, who knows, but I can't imagine how fast you'd need to go for such a small gap to kill you. BTW, Google still shows the bridge as present in both map view and street view.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    I don't know but that concrete barricade looks old...the orange one looks new.  I suspect the concrete barricade has been there for some time and yes on a dark or stormy night it might not be obvious....I suspect hitting that concrete barricade at a high rate of speed might have been the cause of the accident....  Probably it should be reflective painted or well lit or the new orange barricade in front....  Under no circumstance is Google to blame...the driver and the road maintance dept maybe.  Ultimately the driver is responsible for where a vehicle goes..it is the driver's responsibility to not drive where it is dangerous not the world's job to softly prevent them from doing so.
    SleepySheepFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 11 of 23
    jfabula1 said:
    Google fix your map in T___A it will route you in different directions even w/o traffic. Apple map is way better in this situation so I have to turned on both maps app. Sad
    Arguably, spreading the traffic is more efficient. I noticed, purely anecdotally, that Apple Maps seems to create its own traffic by guiding everyone through the same side roads when diverting from the main roads due to traffic.
  • Reply 12 of 23
    dewme said:
    Re: “… announced the lawsuit to members of the press at the site, where the bridge has now been barricaded off.”

    It seems to me that local highway maintenance authorities are fully responsible for ensuring that proper signage, warnings, and barricades are put in place that correspond to changing local conditions. When did Google Maps become responsible for assuring that the local conditions and road and infrastructure maintenance and safety concerns are maintained in an up-to-date state at all times?

    Google Maps is not an authoritative source of anything that it does not have direct control and responsibility for keeping up to date. It’s a convenience service, not a highway maintenance or public safety service. If a tree falls across a road Google is not responsible for updating its mapping service so drivers don’t run into the tree. It doesn’t matter if the bridge collapsed yesterday or ten years ago. Google has no responsibility at all. If their mapping service is out-of-date or deficient, like a paper map would be, it’s simply a sucky private service with no official responsibility whatsoever. If it sucks, stop using it.

    The local officials responsible for road maintenance should have put up proper signage , warnings, and barricades as soon as the bridge was in an unusable state. Maybe they could get members of the press help them put out public notices to inform the local citizens that the bridge was no longer usable. Is that not the reason why the press was invited to the presser, to help get the word out so no one else makes the same mistake the victim made? 

    Yes, this is a tragic event. But why turn it into a deep pockets money grab? 
    To be fair, both Google and local authority should be sued. 
    ronnwilliamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 23
    ronnronn Posts: 653member
    Yes, Google in the headline generates more clicks. But the family is suing all those that played a part in this tragedy, including those that own the bridge, the adjacent land and Google that was warned about the collapse for at least two years before this tragedy (and again, the bridge collapsed more than nine years prior). Once discovery is complete I'm sure that there will be even more evidence of Google's negligence. Not to mention: 
    "Google Maps still shows a road over Snow Creek. Right: Apple Maps correctly shows the absence of a bridge"
    This nearly a year after the tragedy.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 14 of 23
    It was a private road. Not public. The municipality wasn’t responsible for it at all.
    ronnwilliamlondonFileMakerFellerjony0
  • Reply 15 of 23
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 2,000member
    I stopped using Google Maps years ago as it was doing similar things to me.  Routing me across private land across a non-vehicle bridge (using automobile directions) where Apple Maps did it right.  Several personal instances like that and I stopped looking at Google Maps. 


    ronnFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    tdknox said:
    It was a private road. Not public. The municipality wasn’t responsible for it at all.
    Then you risk of being shot. 
  • Reply 17 of 23
    The bridge gave out nine years earlier and the owners didn’t bother to barricade it?
    ronnwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,371member

    I agree that local officials are to be held liable, specially since the bridge in question had collapsed years prior. The lack of sufficient warning signs falls on squarely on the shoulders of local highway management. My impression is that this lawsuit took a shotgun approach hitting anyone or anything remotely related.

    ...

    That is exactly what has happened, along with a corresponding public media campaign. There are two unnamed local agencies are also being sued for not putting up warning signs or barriers. I suspect the local people who have direct responsibility don't have financial coffers that are similar in size to Google's. I could be wrong. The reports say the residents asked local officials for the road to be repaired or properly barricaded "for years" so that nobody would be "hurt or killed." Nothing was done. There are also allegations that other drivers had been observed by local residents being misdirected to the same site by Google Maps, again, for years. Action taken? None.

    Again, no action was taken by people on the ground, in-situ, closest to the source of the problem, with eyes directly on the problem, even with public reports of other drivers being similarly misled, ... for 10 years. So after nearly 10 years of inaction and apparently zero follow-up by many layers of officials and aware citizens who could actually physically touch the problem at any time and in the blink of an eye, it came down to waiting for Google in the cyberspace to provide the last line of defense and a safety net. 

    This is in Hickory, NC, a thriving city with a population greater than 40,000 with a mayor, a city manager, a city council, a director of public services, traffic department, engineering division, street department, police department, etc. And none of them took any action to remedy a known hazard for 10 years? Was Google's map wrong? Yes it was, but the hazard that Google's mapping software unknowingly exposed drivers to through a map inaccuracy was a known hazard that was identified to local officials, was fully avoidable, and was the responsibility of local citizens and their representative officials who fully understood the magnitude and severity of the hazard to eliminate or mitigate ... but they did nothing for 10 years until Google's map issue exposed their neglect and inaction against a well known, correctable, and avoidable hazard resulted in a fatality. 

    You could say that Google ultimately and unknowingly became the last line of defense in avoiding a hazard that was allowed to remain in place through local negligence, ineptitude, and inaction. Google's map error could only have led to disaster because the hazard was allowed to survive for 10 years. Additionally the driver is ultimately responsible for piloting his vehicle and determining the safety of the road immediately in front of him or her whether or not a navigation tool of any type is employed. I don't believe Google would ever sign-up for being the last line of defense in any scenario where those immediately responsible for dealing with hazards in-situ, including the driver and/or a local or national traffic authorities have failed in their responsibilities, thus implicitly transferring responsibility to Google. The same is true of Apple, Garmin, Tom Tom, etc. But that is exactly what this lawsuit alleges. 

     Also, it is not out of the realm of probability that a self-directed driver looking to explore a little bit off the beaten path, say with their jacked-up 4x4, to have driven down that same path and ending up in the same river. I've been on several similar excursions down unmarked roads. The hazard was there and ripe for disaster and waiting for something bad to happen - for 10 years. Google's mapping error could only have resulted in the tragic outcome that occurred due to the 10 years of undeniable local civic incompetence and irresponsibility.
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 19 of 23
    ronnronn Posts: 653member
    One would think Google would implement timely updates after being sued for similar faulty info in the past. And I can't believe the victim blaming and outrageous claims/assumptions about the victim. A bit of digging from news stories years before the tragedy and looking at the attorney's filings show this isn't a case of a "money grab" or "sue everybody in sight" strategy. The named parties are all partially responsible for this man's death.

    Tragically, as he drove cautiously in the darkness and rain, he unsuspectingly followed Google’s outdated directions to what his family later learned for nearly a decade was called the “Bridge to Nowhere,” crashing into Snow Creek, where he drowned. The complaint alleges Hickory residents repeatedly tried to get Google Maps to route traffic away from the washed-out, collapsed bridge, and to get the owners of the hazardous private road/bridge to fix the danger and erect proper barriers and warning signs until it was safe.


    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,213member
    dewme said:

    I agree that local officials are to be held liable, specially since the bridge in question had collapsed years prior. The lack of sufficient warning signs falls on squarely on the shoulders of local highway management. My impression is that this lawsuit took a shotgun approach hitting anyone or anything remotely related.

    ...

    That is exactly what has happened, along with a corresponding public media campaign. There are two unnamed local agencies are also being sued for not putting up warning signs or barriers. I suspect the local people who have direct responsibility don't have financial coffers that are similar in size to Google's. I could be wrong. The reports say the residents asked local officials for the road to be repaired or properly barricaded "for years" so that nobody would be "hurt or killed." Nothing was done. There are also allegations that other drivers had been observed by local residents being misdirected to the same site by Google Maps, again, for years. Action taken? None.

    Again, no action was taken by people on the ground, in-situ, closest to the source of the problem, with eyes directly on the problem, even with public reports of other drivers being similarly misled, ... for 10 years. So after nearly 10 years of inaction and apparently zero follow-up by many layers of officials and aware citizens who could actually physically touch the problem at any time and in the blink of an eye, it came down to waiting for Google in the cyberspace to provide the last line of defense and a safety net. 

    This is in Hickory, NC, a thriving city with a population greater than 40,000 with a mayor, a city manager, a city council, a director of public services, traffic department, engineering division, street department, police department, etc. And none of them took any action to remedy a known hazard for 10 years? Was Google's map wrong? Yes it was, but the hazard that Google's mapping software unknowingly exposed drivers to through a map inaccuracy was a known hazard that was identified to local officials, was fully avoidable, and was the responsibility of local citizens and their representative officials who fully understood the magnitude and severity of the hazard to eliminate or mitigate ... but they did nothing for 10 years until Google's map issue exposed their neglect and inaction against a well known, correctable, and avoidable hazard resulted in a fatality. 

    You could say that Google ultimately and unknowingly became the last line of defense in avoiding a hazard that was allowed to remain in place through local negligence, ineptitude, and inaction. Google's map error could only have led to disaster because the hazard was allowed to survive for 10 years. Additionally the driver is ultimately responsible for piloting his vehicle and determining the safety of the road immediately in front of him or her whether or not a navigation tool of any type is employed. I don't believe Google would ever sign-up for being the last line of defense in any scenario where those immediately responsible for dealing with hazards in-situ, including the driver and/or a local or national traffic authorities have failed in their responsibilities, thus implicitly transferring responsibility to Google. The same is true of Apple, Garmin, Tom Tom, etc. But that is exactly what this lawsuit alleges. 

     Also, it is not out of the realm of probability that a self-directed driver looking to explore a little bit off the beaten path, say with their jacked-up 4x4, to have driven down that same path and ending up in the same river. I've been on several similar excursions down unmarked roads. The hazard was there and ripe for disaster and waiting for something bad to happen - for 10 years. Google's mapping error could only have resulted in the tragic outcome that occurred due to the 10 years of undeniable local civic incompetence and irresponsibility.
    Was there reliable evidence that the driver was actively following Google Map directions, and how was that determined? IMO Google should probably have noted and corrected the bridge failure before now, bad Google, but if the driver wasn't following their directions at the time of the accident how would Google be to blame in any way?  

    If this was on private land or in a wilderness area and relying on a stable private bridge, taking things cautiously would be the drivers responsibility as the bridge could have failed weeks, days, or hours earlier, or perhaps even non-existent as this one was and without notice. Being careful the first time thru when you don't know for a fact what's ahead is simple common-sense. 
    edited September 2023
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